I knew there would be trouble when they walked into the bar.
Not physical, getting somebody’s ass whipped trouble, but emotional, I don’t want to hear this shit trouble.
Up until a few months ago, I would have considered them friends. Even when things went to hell, if they had just kept their mouths shut they would have been fine.
The ones I found knew about her affair I dropped like a rock, making it very clear they were no longer my friends. Of course, they tried to argue, they didn’t want to take sides, they hoped she’d figure out it was destructive behavior, she still loves you, blah, blah, blah, didn’t cut it with me and I told they so. It took a couple of meetings and some pretty intense confrontations before they realized I was serious. To this day, if one comes up and tries to talk, I either turn my back or leave. I think they finally got the point.
The few others I still associated with got the point, and made sure they didn’t mention her. If they did, by accident, I simply excused myself and left.
It had been six months, the paperwork filed, the statements given, my offer of a fifty fifty split more than fair, and it was almost done.
She was fighting it tooth and nail. We tried arbitration, but they gave up when neither of us would budge. Mostly they talked to her, trying to get her to see she was getting a really good deal.
Then she hit me with counseling. I refused, telling the judge it would be a complete waste of everyone’s time and money, because there was no way I’d reconcile. The judge listening to an emotional, borderline hysterical Becky, threatened me with jail, and was shocked when I said all right, just tell me when to turn myself in.
“You’re that positive this marriage can’t be saved?”
“Beyond the shadow of a doubt, to use a term you’ll easily understand. I will not, let me stress that, WILL NOT ever be living with or have a relationship with her for the rest of my life. We have no children. Since this started, we have very few friends in common, my business partner and his wife helped her carry on and conceal the affair, so I’m through with them. Divorcing her will be just a tiny ripple in the big pond of life. Clear enough for you?”
I may have overstated it, and she decided to test my resolve. I spent three weekends in jail before she finally understood I was willing to keep going indefinitely, and dropped counseling.
They were on a mission, you could see it in the eyes of the women. The men just looked uncomfortable.
I knew they weren’t there by accident, the bar was in another town twenty five miles away. I told my new favorite bartender I didn’t care for the quality of people in my old one.
She was pretty shrewd, in her mid forties, and had pretty much seen it all. She managed to get the story out of me in bits in pieces, usually waiting until I’d had at least four beers. She had been married to the same man for twenty one years. They owned the bar. What I loved most about her was she never offered an opinion, even though I could see she wanted to.
Finally one night I told her to speak her mind, a one time, never to be broached again opportunity, so she’d get over wondering about it.
When we were done, she just looked at me for a little while.
“Obviously, I’ve only heard your side of the story. It might be fantasy and bullshit, but I don’t think so. You were probably right to leave, but you might want to let her give you her side of the story. I’m sure you’ve wondered how it all went down the tubes. It might do you some good. It might not, it may make you even more angry.
Still, human nature being what it is, it might help you to hear her out. Up to you, end of discussion. The next beer is on me.”
God, I loved this woman. A mother figure who’d feed you all the alcohol you wanted, for a price, if you gave her your keys first.
She knew something was up the minute they walked in and she saw my face turn to stone.
“Friends?” she said, nodding to them.
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully, “guess I’m abut to find out.”
“Don’t do anything stupid,” she warned, “just give me a look and I’ll run them out of here.”
It took them ten minutes to work up the nerve to say anything. Todd walked up and stood beside me.
“Hey Jace, how you doing?”
“I’m fine. The family’s fine. Everybody is fine. Cut to the chase, Todd. What do you want?”
My little speech, delivered with no emotion, shook him a little.
“Me and the boys,” he nodded at his two friends,
“we don’t really want to do this. But Becky has them all bummed out crying over what an asshole you’re being over something she’s sorry about and you won’t forgive her for. You remember being married, hell, technically you’re still married, and they won’t let it go. So we found out where you were, and here we are. Will you talk to them?”
“If I say no? Tell them to cram Becky up their collective asses and leave me the hell alone?”
He colored a little, but kept on.
“It would probably hurt all their feelings, and they’d come after you anyway. Please Jace.”
I let him stew for a minute.
“All right. But remember what I told Jeff and Angela? Bob and Gloria? It still applies. I do this, we’re through. Don’t bother looking me up again, understand?”
I think he got a little angry, like I gave a shit.
“I understand. Man, what a hard ass you’ve turned into. Now will you talk to them?”
“Yes. Let me ask you something before you go. If it was your wife screwing around, would you let it go?”
He gave me a smirk.
“That’ll never happen. She loves me.”
“Yeah. Becky said the same thing. Still does. Didn’t stop her now, did it?”
He frowned before I continued.
“First, go tell Sandy and George what I said, and then have them come over here and tell me they understand. They might not be as pussywhipped as you are. Then, tell the girls I’ll give them ten minutes, no more, so they better be sure about what they say right off the bat, because they’ll never get a second chance. I figure I’ll have time to enjoy another beer by then.”
I turned away, dismissing him. He stood for a second, head hanging, before he went back to the table. I watched in the mirror as their heads jerked up and a heated discussion started. Sandy threw up his hands and walked over to me.
“I’ve always liked you, Jace. You don’t deserve this shit. I’m a little ashamed of the whole thing, and I’m out. I apologize for bothering you. But Tina is determined. We’re going to have a long talk on the way home. This is the last time I’m going to put up with her meddling. I guess this is goodbye.” He held out his hand. I shook it.
“So long, Sandy. You’re one of the good ones. If I ever come back to town, I might look you up. Not Tina, though.”
George never really liked me much, so he had no problem.
The women watched me like a hawk. I made them wait a little while, before mentally girding my loins and walking into the lions’ den.
I sat, and they started talking. I held up my hand, got out my phone, and set the timer for ten minutes. I could tell it really pissed them off.
“All right, you’re on the clock, go.”
Tina rolled her eyes.
“Really, Jace, a timer?”
“Nine minutes and forty nine seconds,” I said.
They talked over each other for a minute before they realized their mistake and looked at Carrie. Apparently she was to be the spokesperson.
“I know this is really none of our business, but…”
They almost ran when I slammed my hand down hard on the table.
“Finally, somebody understands. You’re right, it IS none of your fucking business, and you’d be well served to stay out of it. But you can’t resist, can you? You’re determined to talk sense into me, because you’re our friends, right? Then where the hell were you when she was out screwing someone else? Where was your concern for me then? One word from any of you to either of us would have saved me a lot of grief, we wouldn’t even be here now. But looking back, I can’t recall you or any of our so called friends ratting her out. Hell, a lot of you gave her alibis. Fuck that. Fuck this. Fuck you. End of rant. Let me reset the timer.”
They all sat there stunned before Carrie spoke up. She sounded annoyed.
“Jace, please. It was a mistake. She never meant for it to happen. We didn’t know what to say.”
“She’s miserable. Her parents hardly ever talk to her anymore, her boss has her on probation. She cried when she found out you’d saved her job. I think she’s learned her lesson. Time to swallow your stubborn pride and take her back.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Time? I’m sorry. I didn’t read the Slut Wife Cheating Handbook. I wasn’t aware there was a time limit on how long I was allowed to be angry. So now it’s okay fine? Kiss kiss, promise promise and we live happily ever after? Not hardly. You know, I’d be a lot calmer if you people wouldn’t keep shoving her in my face. Still think you know best for us?”
They actually looked a little guilty before nodding yes.
“You all feel that way?” I looked round the table and they all nodded their heads again. They babbled for a few more seconds before I stopped them.
“Hold on. Let’s go off the clock for a second here. Carrie, if you found out George was screwing around on you and all of of us knew and didn’t tell you, that it would be all right? Or, if the spouse was found out that they’d eventually be forgiven? You love him that much?”
She frowned but said she would eventually.
“And if the person he was fooling with was someone you knew, a friend even, married to a friend, could you forgive them also?”
She looked definitely uncomfortable. They all suddenly seemed very nervous.
“I’d like to think I would, after a time, if I thought they were really sorry.”
“Well that’s great, because Jan and George have been fucking like monkeys for about eight months now. In fact, when I heard the rumors about you guys, I didn’t believe it. And before you ask, I was gonna tell you what I’d heard, but other things came up that required my attention. I left it alone because I thought you deserved to find out on your own, like I did. By then I didn’t give a shit about any of you anyway. It’s why I moved here, I heard they had a better class of assholes. So take your pompous, hypocritical platitudes and shove them up your collective asses.”
I stopped, breathing heavily. There was dead silence around the table.
“So, let the healing begin. That way we can all get over it. Carrie, tell Jan you forgive her. Jan, in four months you can promise her you won’t screw him again and everything will be fine. You’ll have a stronger marriage for it, I’m pretty sure that’s in a chapter of the cheating handbook somewhere.”
I stopped to catch my breath.
“Let’s get Todd and George over here too, and do a blanket healing. And Carrie, don’t throw too many stones, or I’ll have to tell an interesting tale about you and a stripper during you last girl’s weekend to Myrtle Beach. Did I mention Becky told tales when she was drunk and we were alone? Tina, you and Sandy need a new circle of friends. Looks like the old one is pretty worn out. We’ve finished our conversation about me and Becky, but it looks like you guys have a lot to talk about, so I’ll be leaving now. Let’s not do this again, ever. Bye.”
Was it a shitty thing to do? Maybe, but it didn’t bother me much. He without sin, and so on.
There was a hell of a row at the table. A lot of yelling and tears, and more than a few slaps. Sandy grabbed Tina and they went to another table. He wasn’t loud, but he had a finger in her face and she was crying pretty hard. Finally Marge, the bartender, told them to either leave or tone it down. They trouped out, all but Tina and Sandy.
She timidly came up to me.
“I’m sorry,” she said, with lowered head and avoided eye contact. Then she gathered her courage and looked up.
“It just that we thought you were the best of us. You guys seemed really happy. I didn’t believe it when you split up, and I figured once you calmed down you’d talk it out and get back together. I’m guessing everyone, especially Becky, didn’t expect your reaction. You’re really through with her, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Tina, I am. You’re wrong, though. You and Sandy are the best of us. Use this as a learning experience. Choose your friends a little more carefully in the future. Go home now. Love each other. And if nothing else, remember me and Becky, and how you can never be sure of anything, especially how a person will react to betrayal. Maybe I’ll see you sometime.”
Sandy apologized again, and they left, holding hands.
Marge nodded towards them as they left.
“They seem a decent couple. The others though, I’m not so sure of. I think the divorce court in your hometown will be a little busier soon.
I nodded, agreeing. Then gave her my keys, thirty dollars for the cab, and switched to whiskey.
I was as surprised as any of them at my reaction. I liked to think I was a pretty decent guy. Still do. Then again, you never know how someone will react to stress and betrayal. The fact that I loved her so deeply made the betrayal even worse.
I wasn’t really attracted to Becky at first. She flirted too much and seemed a little flighty to me. We didn’t date for the first two years I knew her.
She was the best friend of my business partners’ wife. Cindy was the one constantly trying to put us together.
“Give it a rest, Cin. We’re just not attracted to each other.”
“Speak for yourself. I know for a fact she’s interested in you. You’d be good for her.”
Being half buzzed, I smiled and kissed her cheek.
“But, dear Cin, would she be good for me?”
She left it along for about six months, then Allan, my partner, asked me for a favor.
“Jace, I hate to spring it on you this late, but all of us, Cin, Becky, and her date were going to the theater tomorrow. The touring company of Momma Mia. I know how much you love musicals, you closet sissy, and Beck and her boyfriend had a big fight and they broke up. Would you go with us and keep her company?”
I thought about it for a minute.
“Don’t think so, Al. I don’t think I’d enjoy it in the company of a weepy or angry woman. And you’re the one who picked the show, it’s all you’ve talked about for two weeks. Have you picked which dress you’re going to wear? It’s after Labor Day, so the white four inch heels are out. Go with the black five inch ‘come fuck me’ pumps. Maybe Cindy will get excited enough to use that ten inch strapon, you size queen.”
We laughed and went back to work. That evening, Cindy called.
“Please Jace. She’s a mess right now. She could use the company of a decent man.”
“But I don’t need the company of an emotional woman.”
“She’ll behave. I promise. Please please please?”
“All right, but just because I want to see the show. In gratitude, tell Allen you’ll use the strapon if he’s a good girl. He’ll understand.”
“You asshole! Now I have to buy some scented lube on the way home. Cherry, if they have it.”
We laughed for a minute while I tried to get a mental picture. Allan was six four, with a beard. Cindy might be five three.
“Seriously, dude, thanks.”
“If tonight sucks, I’m gonna take a turn on you with that strapon. Now, let’s get to work.”
We went to dinner first. Becky was subdued but not whiny. I really looked at her for the first time.
She was five seven, slender, small breasted, but she had a world class ass. Her auburn hair went to her shoulders in soft curls. Her face was well proportioned, with brown eyes that sparkled most of the time, and a mouth that seemed to say “Kiss me! Now!”
All together she was a very nice package. The problem was she knew it and used it. I’d seen her work a guy, and the poor bastard never had a chance when she turned on the charm. Then she’d laugh and walk off, leaving him hanging.
We enjoyed the show. The girls were actually singing their favorite song from the show in the parking lot. I looked at Al and grinned. We jumped right in. Soon half the parking lot chimed in for the big finish.
We went for a drink later, at a small club I suggested. I have nothing against dance clubs, but sometimes I actually like to hear myself think, and hold a conversation. It was the weekend, and they had a four piece band. Two keyboards, drums, and a guy that switched from guitar to bass as the song called for. It was old, light melodies, mostly slow. There were actually a few couples dancing on the small floor.
Allan looked at Cindy and she dragged him out on the floor.
“Wanna…” was all I got out before I was on the floor, with a hot woman wrapped around me. It was slow, it was soft, it was comfortable instead of arousing.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“For what?” I asked in surprise.
“For showing me good guys still exist. Cindy told me to behave, so I did. I know you didn’t want to come, but I’m glad you decided to.”
“Me too,” I said, realizing I meant it.
“Whether you know it or not, you’re a hell of a woman, Becky. Tone the flirting down a notch or two, invest in someone worthwhile, and I’m sure you’ll be very happy. And I’m not criticizing you, just making an observation based on watching you for the last few years.”
She actually smiled.
“Thanks, I think. You really think I’m a nice woman?”
My turn to smile.
“When you want to be. Either way, you’ve got the best ass I’ve ever seen. Ever noticed when we’re around each other I’m always a step or two behind you?”
She flushed, then punched me on the arm.
“Again, thanks, I think.”
The song ended and we walked back, talking and smiling. Cindy was sitting there amazed.
“What were you two talking about?”
“How Jace says I’m a good woman most of the time. And what a great ass I have.”
Allan choked on his drink and Cindy laughed. I looked at him.
“What? Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed.”
Cindy looked at him suspiciously.
“What about my ass, honey?”
He was trying to think of something diplomatic to say when I rescued him.
“You do have a nice ass, Cindy, but it’s not even close to hers. If it’s any consolation, you’ve got a killer rack.”
Both women were looking at me like I was crazy for talking to them like this. Allen started laughing.
“Stop, Jace. Quit while your breaking even. Honey you do have a nice ass, and you’ve got Becky beat all to hell in the boob department. But it’s you I love, and that’s all that counts, to me.”
Nice save, Allan, I thought, remembering now what a good salesman he was. Becky just grinned, turned around and shook her butt in his face. I wished many times I’d had a camera that night.
Not to be outdone, Cindy grabbed my head and stuck my face between her boobs, nearly smothering me. We all laughed until we cried, had one more drink and three more dances. The last dance Becky molded to me, rubbing until she felt me get hard. Then backed off, grinning.
“You’re a good guy, Jace, but you’re still a man.”
I got a really good kiss, and she made me promise to call her, soon.
I didn’t call for two weeks.
That Saturday I got a pretty sharp call from Cindy.
“You asshole[she called me that a lot. I hoped it was a term of endearment]. She was starting to think there were good guys in the world, and then you don’t call. Her feelings are hurt pretty bad.”
“Cindy,” I said calmly, when she finally wound down.
“What’s Allan been doing for the last two weeks?”
“You know damn well what he’s been doing. You’ve been keeping him at the office all those ungodly hours getting the Jamison account done.”
“Exactly,” I said softly, “and what was I doing all this time?”
“Guilting Allan because you’re practically living at the office. What’s that…Oh.”
Suddenly she was apologizing.
“I’m sorry, Jace. I didn’t think. I should have told her.”